Important Information from the SBS in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
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Bi-Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, September 17, 2020
Since the publication of our previous Newsletter two weeks ago, many changes are continuing to take place as we are all carrying on and getting out more. At the SBS, we are engaged in the next stages of planning for the months ahead. We are pleased to report that while many services have been changed or cut in the tri-state area, our level of commitment remains stable. We enthusiastically continue to bring you the same quality and breadth of services, although new and adaptive to the current circumstances.
Over the past few months, we have been calling to “check in”, to follow up, and to initiate contact for the first time. We have expanded our interactions during the COVID crisis to include many people with whom we have had limited contact. This has allowed us to include many more new people in our circle and opened up opportunities for involvement on different levels.
In response to our last Newsletter, we have received many replies from our members who are interested in our various offerings in the Fall. We thank you for your interest and we are in the process of figuring out the logistics. Especially enthusiastic were the requests for joining our small group meetings in venues in New Jersey, Queens, Long Island, and maybe Staten Island. This speaks to the hunger that many have exhibited for face-to-face gatherings after a long hiatus, albeit with masks and social distancing. Of necessity, these will be limited to 4 or 5 people, and we may have to schedule a couple of small meetings, rather than one big one. We appreciate your patience as we begin the process of planning.
Please also remember the knitting club, the book club and the music afternoons. We also appreciate your input for suggestions for other possibilities.
We are also examining creative ways to make music together. This could take place online on Zoom and comprise a “Sing-along” with many of our members joining in. Our repertoire would be mixed to include some Swiss songs, some American standards, and even songs from Broadway musicals. We are looking for someone with a background in leading music groups and with a knowledge of songs sung in different Swiss dialects. We all know that singing (on any level) enhances expression, relieves stress, and improves your mood.
We strongly encourage you to get a flu shot as soon as possible. This is covered by Medicare and available in many local pharmacies and urgent care centers, as well as from your doctor.
We look forward to hearing from more of you to express your interest in our upcoming events in the coming months. With your input, we can continue to put together interesting, informative, and socially connecting activities to continue our fellowship at the SBS. More than anything else, we value our togetherness and sense of hope for the future.
With warm wishes,
Mary Jo Motyka, LMSW
Elise Karras, LMSW
In Memoriam: We mourn the loss of our longtime member, Fanny Turschwell, who died on September 7, 2020.
Bi-Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, September 3, 2020
Our last letter to you was published at the end of July. Since then, we have heard that many of our members have been using the time indoors to downsize, de-clutter and set new goals. We have heard from some of our members in Westchester and New Jersey about their travails with no power for many days. We admire your fortitude and resilience during those trying times. Outside, you have been slowly meeting with each other while practicing physical distancing but maintaining social connections. This has been a time of transition, a time to grapple with disruptions, and reconsideration of how to reconnect with life for renewal and growth.
We have all been coming out of a prolonged period of inactivity and uncertainty, and we are often unsure how to proceed with motivation and problem-solving to move forward. Just as we have offered our services in the beginning and the middle of the pandemic, so too are we available to speak with you as we are slowly re-emerging.
At the SBS, we are considering new ways to connect and offer some possibilities for your consideration. Please note that without your feedback and expression of interest, we will not be able to proceed and schedule these activities. So, if any of the following suggestions appeal to you and you would like to participate, we must hear from you by email, text, or phone call.
Things will, of necessity, look different this Fall at the SBS. As a start, we are offering the following activities:
• The knitting group will now be facilitated via the phone. We will work out the format as we proceed. We are eager to add new members to our core group. Once again, we will present our much appreciated finished products to children of incarcerated parents.
• We are putting together a telephone book club, which may evolve to an online setting, if possible. The first book will be a relatively short one and will be assigned to be read in about 2 weeks. We will then convene to offer opinions and evaluations with our fellow group members. We know that many of you are avid readers, and we think that this is a good way to connect in a social forum.
• The walking group (social distancing and masks required) will reconvene in the Fall, when the weather should be ideal.
• We will be trying to initiate what will essentially be small outside meetings of no more than 4 or 5 people at a time. These will be held in as many venues as required, including Manhattan, Queens, New Jersey, and other areas as requested. We are calling this new venture Coffee at Your Neighborhood Café.
Of course, we welcome other suggestions from our members, as well. We are also considering other possible activities. We know many of you have inquired about the Music Matinee group and we are working on a possible format, perhaps on Zoom.
We send you our best wishes and look forward to new and interesting times together in the near future. We continue to hope that you are staying safe and well and finding ways to adjust to the “new normal.”
With warm regards,
The SBS staff
Bi-Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, July 23, 2020
We hope that this current Newsletter finds you well and safe. Since our last publication two weeks ago, the opening-up process has officially entered Phase 4, but with limitations due to an abundance of caution, especially where large, enclosed gatherings are concerned. More and more of you have been telling us that you are starting to venture outside and “test the waters” in your neighborhoods and beyond.
For the past few weeks, we have been taking time to reflect and re-think our plans and protocols going forward. In defining our own “new normal” at the SBS, we are assessing the ever-evolving situation and working to assure the safety and well-being of both our staff and our members. Of necessity this involves re-defining many of our long-held traditions, especially where physical distancing is required.
For the Fall of 2020, we are thinking in creative ways to reconfigure some of our popular events. Already, during the summer, the telephone exercise class has proven to be an alternative way to keep fit. We are also working to bring a music or literature class to you via Zoom. The knitting group will continue to find a way to be together and is actively seeking new members. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Elise Karras at (917) 756-4480. Other possibilities are being considered for new ways to conduct a virtual Kaffeeklatsch or to attempt a couple of small meetings, socially distanced and outside with a mask. We know many people are still wary of riding on public transportation, especially on a crowded subway. This has prompted us to consider regional small activities in the outdoors in Queens or Staten Island, as well as in Manhattan. We will keep you posted as to our future plans in the Fall. Our office, as noted before, is officially open, but by appointment only and with very limited capacity for visitors.
Among the many cancelled activities this year are the traditional Swiss National Day celebrations. Both in Switzerland and here in New York, there will be no formal large gatherings. It has been necessary for the SBS to cancel our very popular Swiss National Day luncheon that had been held at various venues for the past couple of years. We, of course, will be with you in spirit, and send you our warmest greetings. The Swiss Benevolent Society of Philadelphia will be holding an outdoor celebration in New Hope and there will even be a traditional bonfire!
The speech by the Federal President of Switzerland, Mrs. Simonetta Sommaruga, to Swiss nationals abroad on the occasion of the 2020 Swiss National Day on August 1st, will be available online at https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/living-abroad/fifth-switzerland.html and is enclosed with this letter.
As we have been doing for many weeks now, we are offering a recipe for you to try. This week we suggest a summer Cervelat and Cheese Salad. Enjoy!
For cultural stimulation, go to www.verbierfestival.com or https://youtu.be/j1uYw2tkSV0 for several short excerpts from the famed festival. These performances are being sponsored by the label Deutsche Grammophon and offer a wide variety of top-notch musical experiences. Also, the Metropolitan Opera is continuing with week 20 of its free streamed live historic performances of great operas. Go to www.metopera.org for the schedule.
Our next Newsletter Update will be brought to you at the end of August 2020. We wish you a good rest of the summer with continued health and optimism for the days ahead!
We send you our best wishes,
The SBS staff
Bi-Weekly Update from the SBS, Friday, July 10, 2020
We hope that the last two weeks have brought you continued good health, and that your capacity for resilience and coping remain intact. Although progress has been made, there is still a sense of uncertainty about the future and our place in it. At the SBS, we are following the guidelines for Phase 3 re-opening and finding our way as the situation evolves. In New York City, for example, although it was proposed that restaurants would be open for indoor seating in this phase, there has been a roll-back for now and only outside seating will be allowed to ensure continued safety for the interim.
As previously stated in our last Newsletter, the SBS office is now officially open. In following the protocol for safe re-opening, we have a sanitizing station set up at the entrance to our office. This includes hand sanitizer and extra masks for those who do not have them. The wearing of a mask in the office is mandatory and temperatures will be taken with a thermometer upon entering. You must call the office first to make an appointment and your name will be put on the reservation list downstairs in the lobby. You must also sign in downstairs at the desk. We can only accommodate a limited amount of people at one time to avoid overcrowding. In order to reduce physical contact, we will need to know how many people are in the office at one time. These precautions are set in place to protect our members who visit, and to also allow for the safety of our staff.
Our social workers are, as usual, available on the phone and by email. We have, however, begun to make limited visits with members who can meet outside and maintain a distance of six feet while wearing a mask. These visits have proven to be a good way to reconnect with some people who we have not seen for almost 3 months. When the weather allows, this can be a pleasant way to meet. As we are feeling our way through these experiences, we are aware of possible problems in communication. Talking with a mask on is difficult in any situation, but if there are any hearing problems, there can be a disconnect in the conversation. Also, seeing a person’s mouth and facial expressions are necessary to experience the nuances of connection. We are adjusting to these interferences in normal interaction, and realize that although the solutions are not perfect, our meetings with you are generally preferable to not being able to see you at all.
The Kaffeeklatsches have been helpful vehicles to introduce people to each other. Building on these new relationships, there is now an opportunity for you to meet with each other informally in the outdoors while maintaining a safe distance. Some of our members have been trying this out and have enjoyed re-connecting with friends and mutually reducing feelings of isolation.
In this wonderful interview and video, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma explains how music can close social distances and plays the Prelude from Suite No. 1 by Bach. For more information click here
As everyone starts to get out more, many of us are aware of stiffness, problems with mobility, and lack of general stamina. To address these issues, our telephone exercise class continues 2 times a week.
We offer another delicious Swiss recipe to celebrate the season. Please click here for the Cherry Pie Recipe.
To sum up some of the feelings expressed during this phase of the “opening up” process, the lack of certainty in agreeing on the proper protocols can be like a balancing act. There is no real consensus in how to resume aspects of “normal life”: should we be “too careful”, or are we perhaps “not careful enough?” There is the element of risk vs. closeness and tradition. Finding our way forward will include a mixture of personal decisions and those dictated by the larger society. At the SBS we are here to offer help, support, and guidance in navigating the new landscape.
We will send our next Newsletter Update on July 23, 2020.
Until then, we extend our warmest wishes to you,
The SBS Staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, June 25, 2020
It has been two weeks since we last communicated with you via our Newsletter. We hope that this finds you healthy and safe. Over the past 3 months, our efforts have been focused on maintaining the important relationships we have had with all of you. As we emerge and implement Phase 1 and 2 of reopening, we have developed a professional protocol in opening our offices.
We are pleased to announce that our office building at 500 Fifth Avenue in New York City will be open on July 6. At the SBS, we are proceeding with caution in our opening-up process. We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff and our members who come to the office. To this end, in the entry to our office, we have set up a sanitizing station complete with hand sanitizers and extra masks. We will require that everyone wear a mask in the office and maintain a safe 6 feet distance. We will keep in mind that the number of people in the office will have to be limited and therefore, we urge you to call to make an appointment. Expect the SBS staff to be wearing masks and we will also be maintaining a safe distance. Our protocol follows all recommended guidelines from public health authorities, including the CDC. If we deem the number of people has reached capacity, we will ask you to wait outside. Please be assured if any of our staff is not feeling well, they will be mandated to stay home. Also, if YOU are not feeling well, please contact us by phone only. Please do not come into the office. We will be asking anyone who enters our office to sign an official form called the COVID Daily Attestation which will ask if you have had symptoms, if you have tested positive, and if you have been in contact with anyone with the Virus. Also, the office will be thoroughly disinfected every night. We will abstain from hugging, hand shaking, and any personal contact between staff and members. This is a necessary precaution, so we hope that you will not take these restrictions personally.
As the best insurance to keep everyone safe, we will continue to talk over the phone and communicate via email. This modality is not perfect, but it will continue to allow us to keep in touch in a straightforward, meaningful, and timely manner.
For those who love music and find that it enhances their emotional and spiritual well-being, here is a wonderful collection of short performances, mostly by string players (although there is also a kazoo!) and in response to the pandemic, more here.
We thank those of you who responded to a recent Newsletter with abundant and generous donations! So many of you have reached out and we truly appreciate your commitment to the work of the SBS, especially in these difficult times. Your gift makes a big difference in supporting our programs, our work with frail and homebound clients, and in attending to the needs of our general membership-at-large.
We send our warmest greetings and sincere wishes for continued good health and safety. Our next newsletter will be sent in 2 weeks on July 9, 2020.
Best regards from the SBS staff!
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, June 11, 2020
It seems like there has been a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and New York City and the Metropolitan area, along with the Swiss Benevolent Society, have weathered the storm as well as possible. For almost three months now, we have been providing connection and information for our members through Weekly Newsletter Updates and regular calls and emails. We are heartened by the response to our outreach and have been happy to be here for you during trying times.
At this point, we have decided to reduce the frequency of our Newsletter and will be sending it to you once every two weeks. As the restrictions ease, we know for all of us that this will be a challenging time, but also a time of exploration and discovery. Each in our own way, we will be finding our new places in the “new normal.” We are here to help to support you in navigating your own responses. These are unprecedented times, and we know that even though many of us are excited to begin anew, there may also be some hesitation to venture out and break established routines that we have kept for several weeks. We encourage you to be mindful of the need for small steps, flexible thinking, and fostering a new resiliency. The “ups and downs” experienced in the opening-up process are inevitable and most of us will find new ways of coping in finding our way.
As of this writing, the social workers have begun to make some appointments with members “mask-to-mask” in a park or neighborhood bench. Keeping physically distant (6 feet apart) does not mean that we need to be socially distant. Please contact us via email or phone if you would like to schedule an appointment and we will get back to you.
Unfortunately, we would like to remind you that some parts of the world have not changed. During these difficult times, there are always people that will try to trick you with a scam. This article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will help you stay safe www.consumerfinance.gov.
At the SBS, we are pleased to see that Forbes magazine has rated Switzerland the number 1 safest country in the world for COVID19!! Find more information here.
In the cultural world, we wish to bring to your attention that the Metropolitan Opera is re-broadcasting its very popular At-Home Gala featuring 40 famous artists and the Met Opera and Chorus. This is being shown on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13. Other opera performances will also be streamed for free throughout the week. Click here.
There is also a wonderful, short article from the New York Times on the unexpected sources of hope. Of all things, the author finds joy in re-growing scallions, but this is also a meditation on coping in these uncertain times. Read more.
Sharing our recipes with you has proven to be very popular. Let us know if you have enjoyed them! For this week we have included a recipe for Rhabarber Wähe. Enjoy!
There are many ways to keep in touch. Although our next Newsletter will not be sent until June 25, we will still be communicating by phone, email, texts and now, some in-person restricted visits. One of the unintended benefits of this crisis has been being in touch with, besides our active members, those of you who we see on an occasional basis. Many have said that the SBS is like their “second family” and through sunshine and shade, we continue to be here for you!
With warm greetings from the SBS staff!
Weekly Update from the SBS, Friday, June 5, 2020
We are planning to see you again soon! As the government is ready to enter Phase One of the reopening process in New York City and the surrounding areas, the SBS is also in the planning stages of exploring new and creative ways to make contact. It is often said that with crisis comes opportunity, and in this case, we are looking at ways of managing and coping with a new reality.
In particular, the SBS staff has been discussing possible ways to meet in person on a one-to-one basis. If you would like to meet with one of the social workers, we are considering a pilot program to approach a visit in a safe and secure manner. Our stipulations are these: we would require that an appointment be made, a mask be worn, social distancing of 6 feet be kept, and the meeting would take place in an outdoor space such as a park or neighborhood place. This plan would constitute a beginning of our social work services to those who need a face-to-face contact. We will of course be continuing our phone calls, emails, and texts to our clients and the wider membership. As for our other events, we are beginning the process of addressing new solutions for our group activities. We will keep you posted as we figure out the best and safest way to facilitate these events. So many of our members have told us how much they miss these in-office events, and we are eager to find possible ways of implementing them!
At the SBS, we know that there will be unexpected changes once we step out into the world. We will have to be ready for these changes and be open to new ways of living. For example, this may involve different ways of getting around, having different shopping routines, remembering to wear a mask, and sometimes not even recognizing your neighbor! We are here to help you navigate your own responses and assist you in seeing your way through. At the SBS, we ask you to remember you are not alone in this unfolding process. We are here for you, and we have been finding out that you are there for each other, as well. While we know that there are challenging times ahead, we also know that there can be exciting and interesting experiences for all of us.
In supplementing our activity schedule, we are pleased that the telephone exercise class has added new members. This popular class has been added by people into their schedule twice a week for both physical and social enhancement.
We remind you that Elise Karras will be conducting a workshop on advance directives, including the Five Wishes plan, on Wednesday, June 10, 2020 from 1 to 2pm. Five Wishes is a document that helps people make health care decisions for themselves. Because these wishes are written down, it assures that we have a say in our health care decisions if we are unable to verbalize them at the time of need. Please register with Elise by telephone or email to join the group.
Instructions for calling into the Five Wishes seminar:
wait for voice then punch in 777
wait for voice then punch in 1291
wait for me to say "hi".
A computer is not needed for the workshop.
For meaningful cultural stimulation, we direct you to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s “Bach at Home 2020” festival from June 9 to June 30. This series will include orchestral, chamber, and solo works with interviews and articles. Click here. This will be presented every Tuesday.
Also, the Metropolitan Opera continues its nightly streams of former great opera performances. Go to www.metopera.org for more information.
Finally, so many of our members have expressed appreciation and delight in our weekly posting of a recipe for you to try at home. Click here for a white risotto from the Ticino recipe! Enjoy!
With warm regards from the SBS staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, May 28, 2020
Dear SBS Members
After so many weeks of staying at home, we are starting to see some familiar activities in our neighborhoods. People are out more and walking in the parks and on the streets, wearing their masks, of course. More restaurants and diners are opening for take-out and delivery, and some small businesses, like dry cleaners and newsstands, are also beginning to open. Despite the small progress in easing restrictions, we encourage you to stay the course. In other words, continue to wear your face masks, practice social distancing and in general, try not to let down your guard. Two of our members recently were creative in their attempts to get together: they went to the park and sat on either end of the bench and talked, even with their masks on. As we enter a new phase in this crisis, we remember that these solutions are appropriate for now, and hopefully will change with the changing times.
As another way of staying the course, we encourage you to keep up hope and think of the possibilities inherent in looking toward the future. This has been a long time of isolation, fear, and uncertainty, and for many of us, it has been very challenging. We urge you to keep up the protocols when going outside. We have gotten this far and we don’t want to undo all of the progress that has been made. This crisis has highlighted that change is inevitable, and there will be a “new normal” for all of us. Although change is universal, how we respond to it will be personal. Optimism and the hope that things will get better is much needed at this time.
As we prepare to get outside more, a key issue for many is mobility. Like anything that hasn’t been used in a while, our body will take time to regain competency and strength. Ways to facilitate re-entry include walking around your home or apartment or in the lobby of your building. Above all, it is important to remember that we cannot rebound all at once, but rather should go forward in increments.
New York City has been opening certain streets to pedestrians for walking with more room for social distancing. These streets will be closed to traffic for the foreseeable future. For a list of these streets, please click here.
We encourage you to fill out your Census form. This is important because it will determine budget allocations for the next 10 years. Click here to ensure that your voice is heard.
Again, we remind you to make sure that you have your advance directives in place. Given the severity of the virus, it seems clear that it is essential to appoint someone you trust as your proxy to communicate your medical wishes if you lose the ability to do so yourself. The Healthcare Proxy Hotline offers a free service to support New Yorker's to help fill in their advance directives. Their number is 212-726-2034.
Elise Karras will conduct a telephone seminar on Wednesday, June 10 from 1 to 2 pm on the topic of advance directives. Among other important topics, the construct of the Five Wishes will be discussed. All that is needed is a telephone, a comfortable chair, and a pen and paper. A computer is not needed for this seminar. Please register by phone or email with Elise and she will follow up with the necessary details.
We wish to remind you about certain scams in this time of COVID19. Please remember that your bank will never call you; the IRS, Social Security, or Medicare will also never call you. If someone calls saying that they represent any of these agencies, HANG UP!
For much needed cultural stimulation, from May 30 to June 4, for streams of wonderful dance performances, go to www.lincolncenter.org/danceweek.
We end with a recipe to celebrate the Spring season. It’s asparagus season! This healthy dish is from Zürich and is quick and easy to prepare and tastes delicious. Find the recipe here.
With warm regards,
The SBS staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, May 22, 2020
We hope that you all are doing well and staying safe and healthy. We send you our warmest greetings and would like to keep you informed about our latest endeavors at the SBS. Our Society has been especially active and on-call during these uncertain times.
Since the middle of March, we have been sending out a weekly Newsletter Update to the members. As one member recently said: “These updates keep us connected, interested, and informed. I save all of the newsletters.” In each issue, we have varied our content to reflect the needs of the community in these uncertain times. We have addressed physical, emotional, and mental consequences and offered tips to stay safe. In addition, we have attempted to keep our members entertained with links to educational and inspirational sites. Above all, our goal has been to strengthen the bonds of connection between us. All of our Newsletter Updates can be found on our website. Please indicate on the payment form if you would like to be put on our mailing list for the Newsletters.
We have been heartened to see that our members have shown enormous resilience, mutual aid, and patience during this time. We also appreciate their openness to discuss any problems or issues that have arisen in this crisis. One member in New Jersey recently stated: “When I tell my friends about the SBS, they are so impressed with what you do for us.”
In order to help our members remain safe and healthy, we have a limited amount of face masks to distribute to those who need them. These have been graciously provided by Consul General of Switzerland. Please let us know if you would like us to send some to you.
As the SBS looks forward, we are exploring new ways to creatively address communication issues and opportunities to come together in a safe and protected manner. Knowing that restrictions will gradually be eased, we look forward to encountering the “new normal.” We are here for the duration. We understand that just as staying at home has presented unique challenges, so, too, will the “opening up” process require new ways of thinking and feeling. Our two social workers have many years of experience and are specially trained to help process an array of practical, emotional, and psychological issues. They are able to offer a steady hand in times of uncertainty. We are here to help you to adapt in the time of COVID and in the months and years ahead. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us for a warm and professional response to your particular needs.
We offer one more performance for inspiration and comfort. Itzhak Perlman leads Juilliard students in a short, but beautiful piece by Edward Elgar: www.cbsnews.com. In the Search section, type in Juilliard Orchestra.
As we come together, we rely on your generosity to help keep our services free and available to all of our members. For over 174 years, our Society has made a commitment to serve the Swiss community. For the last three months, the SBS has been a beacon of hope and light in these troubled times. We hope that our impact on the entire community has been valuable and we invite you to make a donation or renew your membership. You can also pay online, click here. We understand that not everyone is able to contribute at this time. We welcome other expressions of support such as volunteering or advocating for us by sharing our mission with your friends or family members.
Thank you for staying connected with us and being a part of our community. Even though we are in uncharted waters, together we can look forward to better times ahead. We hope you are in good spirits and maintaining good health!
Warm regards from the SBS staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, May 14, 2020
Dear SBS Member
As we prepare to begin yet another week of sheltering-in-place, we appreciate the many responses we have received regarding our weekly Newsletter Updates. Our goal has been to keep our members connected and provide information to keep everyone up to date. We are always happy to hear your comments and reactions to our updates:
“I love getting the newsletter every week. I feel the love between the lines…”
“I look forward to receiving the newsletter every week. I especially enjoy clicking on the links to be distracted and enlightened!”
“One of the things I have learned during this time is that we can adjust to anything if we put our mind to it. I was wondering before if I could deal with not being able to join the SBS activities or visit friends, but I am alive and well! Spring is always beautiful, but I never took the time to watch the way nature progresses every day. It is a real gift.”
“When I receive the newsletter, it makes me feel that I belong, that I am part of something, where people care about each other.”
We celebrate Older Americans Month this year in these unusual times. This national initiative recognizes the contributions of older Americans across the country. In turn, we recognize your relevant, vibrant, and important contributions that help to make the SBS what it is today. We appreciate our volunteers, the giving of mutual aid between members, and the fostering of deepening friendships. This involvement in a larger community has helped us to know that even being apart has brought us closer together.
In addition, May has been designated as Mental Health Month. For 2020, the theme is “kindness” and the goal is to celebrate the thousand acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. Certainly, in these uncertain times, there is no health without mental health. If you find yourself anxious or depressed, you are not alone. From longer lines at the grocery store, to cancellation of events leading to more social isolation, to fear of the disease, it is hard not to feel some of these effects of the virus. If you are feeling the stress of uncertainty and unpredictability, it is understandable. We know the importance of connection and being able to talk to someone. We are here for you and encourage you to reach out to either of our social workers.
Staying at home for so long can easily feel restrictive, but on the other hand, it can make us feel too comfortable. As we are contemplating taking the first small steps, there may be some initial hesitation about going out and re-entering a changed environment. Of course, there is a constant need to “suit up” with masks and gloves, even as some restrictions are eased. Also, after not moving for so long, we all will have to prepare for what it takes to reinvigorate our mobility. One way of doing this is to join our telephone exercise group. Going out initially can be overwhelming. To avoid this feeling, incremental small steps will be helpful.
There are new regulations regarding overseas travel. Although Switzerland is now starting to phase in an “opening up” process, special travel rules have been put in place. Please contact the Consulate if you have any questions.
As noted above, as we get ready to go out again in the future, we will still be wearing masks. Please let us know if you need any masks and we will help you to get them.
There are no planned events at the SBS for the foreseeable future. The Annual meeting has been postponed, the Spring outing has been cancelled, and we now know that the Swiss National Day in the summer has been cancelled. These changes are all in keeping with CDC regulations.
We again are sending a recipe for you to try while we all continue to nourish ourselves to stay healthy and resilient. Click here for a recipe for Ghackets und Hornli. Enjoy!
For cultural stimulation, the Metropolitan Opera’s series continue again this week with free livestreams at www.metopera.org. The highlight is Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland and is being shown on Friday, May 15 at 7:30pm.
To stem the tide of boredom and feelings of cultural deprivation, here is a website from the Guardian newspaper in the UK that offers dozens of streams from venues all over Europe and the United States. It is a great resource that you can dip in and out of: Lockdown listening: classical music and opera to stream at home, at the guardian.com.
We mourn the recent passing of longtime member Vreni Trachtenberg. We will miss her greatly.
We encourage you to stay the course and offer continued good wishes to you all.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Warm regards, Your SBS staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, May 7, 2020
Dear SBS Member
Spring has finally arrived, bringing thoughts of warmer weather, (mostly) sunny days, brightly colored blooms, and this week, the celebration of Mother’s Day. In our previous Newsletter Updates, we have addressed practical, legal, and emotional issues, all of which have hopefully been useful to you during these uncertain times. However, we do not want this week to go by without celebrating the change of season. Spring, after all, is traditionally a season of renewal and hope, two qualities especially welcomed at this time.
A beautiful bouquet of flowers can brighten up any room. In the markets, the many colorful Spring blooms have appeared. This week the first lilacs and peonies have joined the many varieties of tulips. For those not lucky enough to have gardens of their own, a couple of bunches of flowers bought at the stands can make a lovely addition this time of year. To learn more, go to “Simple Solutions: the basics of flower arranging” where you will find some basic tips. Some of these tips include using warm water, clipping the flower stems immediately, using foam to stabilize, and making the width balance the height.
With the advent of Spring comes the task of spring cleaning, which can help to manage stress, give a purpose, and provide much needed distraction at this time. Perhaps this may seem intuitive, but we encourage you to open the windows and let the fresh air in! Other tips include cleaning out your medicine cabinet and throwing away old medications, using diluted lemon and vinegar to clean the microwave, and using an old T-shirt to clean a mirror with diluted vinegar and essential oils. Click here for many more tips, including using vodka for cleansing purposes!!
Considerations for keeping healthy in Springtime include taking care of your feet. After all, walking in the gardens or even around the block is very uncomfortable if your feet are hurting. Some recommendations include: wear cotton socks at night if your feet are cold, elevate feet when sitting to reduce swelling, wiggle your toes and rotate your ankles when sitting too long, and try not to wear anything tight on your feet, unless it is compression stockings prescribed by your doctor.
Although we know that Spring is different this year, there are still ways to embrace the season. We all have a new routine before we venture outside: remember your mask, bring your gloves, include a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the powerful rays of the sun.
This week we include another recipe to try while you are still “sheltering-in-place.” Good nutrition is essential for physical and emotional well-being, especially in these difficult times. Keep your Mother's Day sweet and light with an Aargauer Rüeblitorte/carrot cake.
Cultural nourishment is another way of “feeding” yourself. The Metropolitan Opera continues its nightly streams of past performances. The Viewer’s Choice of an historic performance of La Bohème with Luciano Pavarotti and Renata Scotto will be shown on Friday, May 8 at 7:30pm. Click here for this lovely treat.
For many years now, some of our members have attended the free concerts given by the very talented Juilliard School students. Since the school is now closed, students and alumni have been coming together via technology. Go to www.vogue.com Bolero Juilliard for an article and a video of an amazing interactive performance for dancers and musicians. Also, at www.juilliard.edu go to the Juilliard Media Gallery to see live performances. If you scroll down, there are several excellent performances including music by Brahms and Händel, as well as the Boléro by Ravel.
For a look at the way a Swiss citizen living in New York City views the current crisis here, click here.
We remind you that we continue to offer telephone exercise sessions. We have had a successful first week and invite anyone who would like to join to be in touch with Elise Karras. Mild exercise not only improves fitness through enhancing circulation, but also works to improve your mood!
Finally, for astonishing window views from all over the world (including Switzerland) during the lockdown, click here and enjoy!
“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” - Lady Bird Johnson
Warm regards from the SBS Staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, April 30, 2020
Dear SBS Member
As we navigate the 6th week of sheltering-at-home, we have been impressed by the way our members are taking care of themselves. In our regular conversations with members, we have consistently observed remarkable resiliency, acceptance, and forward thinking. Here are some of your reflections:
When we asked a member if she had enough food to eat, she laughed and replied:
“Are you kidding? I grew up during World War II and since then, I have always kept almost 3 months of food available!”
A homebound member ended our call by saying:
“Thanks for keeping an eye-rather an ear-on me.”
And another member proclaimed:
“You (SBS) are part of what makes life worthwhile.”
And finally, one of our members reflected on the lessons she has learned about looking ahead. She said:
“I will take what I can get from the future…”
Taking Care of Business
Because these are uncertain times, we urge you to take care of yourself by getting your affairs in order, in case of a medical emergency.
Advance directives describe how you want medical decisions to be made for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. These directives include: 1) a healthcare proxy or healthcare power of attorney, 2) living will and 3) durable power of attorney. Remember, these directives are ONLY if you cannot speak on your own behalf. For more information go to the National Institute on Aging Website.
Taking Care of Your Cultural Needs
Nurturing the mind and soul is a key component in taking care of yourself. These are three ways to experience the beauty in life, no matter what the current situation is.
The Metropolitan Opera continues its free nightly streams this week. Highly recommended is the iconic farewell performance of Leontyne Price in Aida in 1985. This “Viewer’s Choice” will be shown on Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm on www.metopera.org and can be accessed for the next 23 hours.
You do not have to leave your home to enjoy virtual train tours from America, Europe, and Asia. You will experience beautiful scenery and interesting commentary. Go to Insider.com and see “stunning-virtual-train-journeys.”
The Bronx Zoo is offering virtual visits to see the wildlife and many animals. The website is www.bronxzoo.com and look under Virtual Zoo.
Taking Care of Your Health Needs (Nutrition)
Eating well is crucial for taking care of yourself. During these uncertain times, we can all understand the desire to turn to “comfort food” to ease the uneasy feelings. However, too much is counterproductive and can prevent you from eating foods which nourish you. Go to the National Institute on Aging website to download or print “Healthy Eating After 50”. For more information click here.
We have also included a healthy Swiss recipe this week, the much-loved Swiss Muesli. It is easy to make as well as delicious and nutritious.
And finally, we mourn the recent passing of two SBS members: Elise Landeck and Dominic Altamuro. We will miss them greatly.
We look forward to hearing from you. Let us know how you are, if you have any suggestions for the newsletter, or just to say “hi”. It is important for us to know you are out there and will be in touch. We continue to reach out to our members and are eagerly anticipating a time when we can come together again.
“When in doubt, stand still and wait until the way forward is clear. This will have a beginning, a middle and an end.”
- Julie Andrews (2020)
Your SBS Team
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, April 23, 2020
Dear SBS Member
As we all “shelter in” for yet another week, the SBS is pleased that so many members have been able to receive and utilize our Weekly Update. We gain our motivation from you to continue to think about new and creative ideas to keep in touch with you. This week our theme is “Staying Connected.” In the following sections, we present some of our creative suggestions that can easily be carried out at home.
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has created a virtual link to an exhibit about the visionary art critic and collector Felix Feneon, who championed Matisse and Seurat, among others. Although this exhibit has been postponed, Mary Jo Motyka would like to plan a visit when the museum re-opens. You can use this link to provide a preview to the exhibition to prepare for our actual visit together: http://www.moma.org. Just go to “What’s On” and then click on “In the Galleries.” This will be an exciting event to look forward to in the (hopefully) near future!
Famous Online Musical Performances
A different Lloyd Webber musical streams each week on The Shows Must Go On at 2PM EST and remains viewable for 48 hours afterwards. Click here
There is no need to miss the spectacular tulip show in the Netherlands this year. Here is the link to view a virtual tour: www.tulipfestivalamsterdam.com. Enjoy!
It has been suggested that coloring creates a calming presence in difficult times. Please click here for some free designs.
There is nothing like a homemade traditional Swiss recipe to make you feel cozy and comfortable and remind you of your home country. In case you don’t have it on hand, here is an easy Rösti recipe. Read More
Please remember to take care of yourself and feel free, as always, to contact us.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
Your SBS staff
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, April 16, 2020
Dear SBS Members
We hope your holidays were meaningful and fulfilling despite the uncertain times in which we live. Although we all have had to forgo visits with family and friends, we look forward to better times; and they will come!
As we approach the fourth week of sheltering-in-place, it is especially important to focus on self-care. We are grappling with restrictions we could never have imagined. Until recently, staying at home all the time was unthinkable!
We have gathered some tips to help in coping with the scope of isolation that many of you may be experiencing in your homes:
- Maintain a daily routine. With the loss of predictability and control, this is especially important.
- Keep up with daily household chores.
- Remember to move, engage in simple exercise. Listen to soothing music. Read a good book or magazine.
- Stay in touch with others. Phone calls, emails, texts, even a handwritten letter or postcard is good.
- Stay informed, but limit your media consumption. Too much news or content can be overwhelming.
- Eat and drink wisely at specific times.
We hope that these tips are useful to get you through these difficult times. Please remember that it is perfectly understandable to be feeling anxious, unmotivated, afraid and/or sad. These feelings may be new to you and appear unexpectedly. It is important to practice self-compassion during times of uncertainty such as these. Be aware that your feelings will come and go. If you feel the need to talk, please feel free to give one of our social workers a call. Also, Governor Cuomo has set up a free mental health hotline in New York State. Thousands of mental health professionals have volunteered and are available to help address emotional health issues stemming from the stresses of social isolation and the quarantine. The hotline number is 844-863-9314. In New Jersey, the number for the NJ Mental Health Cares Helpline is 1-866-202-4357.
There are many ways of taking care of yourself. Many who have lived independent lives are reluctant to reach out to use temporary outside community efforts. However, it is a measure of strength to know that you will remain safe by not leaving your home unnecessarily and making use of such services instead. We have identified a new volunteer service called “Invisible Hands” that serves Manhattan and some parts of New Jersey. These are young people who have recently formed a very large coalition that will do your shopping and deliver to your home. Their website is invisible hands deliver and their phone number is (732) 639-1579. An article about the service can be found at www.6sqft.com if you type “Invisible Hands” into the search box.
A way that people have been spending time during the self-isolation is baking, especially bread. This seems to be a comfort and a connection to the past and easier times. Read More
For much needed cultural stimulation, we remind you that the Metropolitan Opera is continuing to offer free videos every night of past live operas. Highlights include Madama Butterfly and Der Rosenkavalier at the end of this week. These can be found Metropolitan Opera.
Looking ahead, the Met Opera has just announced an At-Home gala which will be streamed live on April 25 at 1pm EDT. Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann are some of the artists who will sing from their own homes. This should be a rare treat. For more information, there is an article on Opera Gala. In the Search section, type in Met Opera gala.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is also streaming a variety of exciting past live performances for free. Click here.
Virtual Tour of Botanical Garden
For a beautiful virtual view of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens during the Japanese cherry blossom season, Botanical Garden for the tour.
Virtual Train Trip
For those of you eager to take a virtual trip, you can take a number of virtual train rides (two of them in Switzerland!) by logging onto Travel and Leisure website.
Above all, always remember:
“The most important relationship you will have is the relationship with yourself.”
– Diane von Furstenberg
Please take care of yourself.
The SBS staff
Thursday, April 9, 2020: President's Spring Message
Weekly Update from the SBS, Thursday, April 9, 2020
Dear Members of the SBS,
As we write our 3rd update newsletter during the COVID-19 crisis, we hope this finds you safe and well. We have reached out to many members and have received calls from members who we don’t usually hear from. We welcome all these calls.
Our SBS community has shown great resilience and our staff is inspired by your ability to cope during such difficult times. We hope that the resources and information we have shared have been helpful. Please remember that Elise and Mary Jo are available for any questions or concerns. You can access the resource/information on our March 31/April 2 newsletters or on our website.
Here are some resources to keep you busy while staying at home:
Online basic exercises
There are three ways to complete the 2020 Census
- Online (www.my2020census.gov)
- By phone: 844-330-2020
- By Mail: Fill out the questionnaire sent out in early March
The Census helps to direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities. It determines the number of Congressional seats each state receives.
We have found that people find comfort and distraction in using adult coloring books. If you would like to explore more about this, call Elise or Mary Jo so we can figure out if this is right for you.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has mandated the use of masks (covering nose and mouth) for everyone venturing outside. Some of our members are making their own masks. If you want more information on making masks, give Elise or Mary Jo a call, or you can look at this useful link in the New York Times (there is no need to have a subscription, this is a part of the free content): https://www.nytimes.com/article/how-to-make-face-mask-coronavirus.html
Many people will be getting a stimulus payment from the government. You generally do not need to have filed taxes in order to be eligible to receive your payment. It has been reported that many of those on Social Security will receive an economic relief payment. For more information, please click here.
We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in person in better times. We hope you stay healthy and safe. Our best wishes for the holidays.
Your SBS Team
Wednesday, April 1st, 2020: Announcement from the Consulate General of Switzerland
Weekly Update from the SBS, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
As of March 30, the SBS continues to abide with the Government order to “shelter-in-place” during these difficult times at least through April 30. Our offices will remain closed until further notice. We have spoken to or communicated with many of our members over the past weeks.
We continue to be available by phone or email if you have any questions or concerns regarding the coronavirus situation or other pressing concerns.
We know that this is a rapidly changing situation and your needs may change at any time. Below you will find a list of some resources to help you navigate the evolving circumstances:
- Meals on Wheels: Department for the Aging: Dial 311 for information.
- Grocery Services/Home Delivery: Dial 311 for information.
- Entitlements/Benefits (i.e. Food Stamps): Hot Line 212-398-5045
- Friendly phone call: DOROT 212-769-2850
- Lifelong Learning: DOROT University without Walls 212-769-2850
- There is a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
- Also note that the IRS tax filing date has been extended from April 15 to July 15.
At times of uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation, the arts are great sources of comfort and solace. They can seem like a steadying force, rather than a mere distraction. In this time of social isolation, connecting with the arts can remind us of the human capacity to create and endure.
For those with access to the Internet or social media, here are some links to cultural enrichment sites:
From the Meistersaal in Berlin: A luminous recital by soprano Anna Prohaska. Well worth hearing, with commentary from the performers, speaking about the music and these difficult times. Click here
From Andrea Bocelli to Joyce DiDonato: great musicians sharing at-home concerts. Click here
2,500 Museums You Can Now Visit Virtually. Click here
The Olympic Museum Lausanne
A fascinating geographical, temporal, cultural and artistic journey through the history of the Look of the Games. Click here
Journey through Switzerland
For a beautiful video of Switzerland with especially exciting views from above: Switzerland in 4K on YouTube. Over 4 million people have watched this! Click here
Montreux Jazz Festival
Pick your favorite artist and listen to a live concert. Click here
We encourage you to browse YouTube for Senior Exercise sessions, including those by Silversneakers.
If you are alone and feeling isolated and would like emotional support, please let us know. We remain committed to the safety and well-being of our members and are here for you.
Weekly Update from the SBS, Monday, March 23, 2020
As of today, the SBS Office remains closed. We are available by phone or email if you have any concerns or questions regarding the coronavirus situation or other pressing issues.
We understand that this can be a difficult and lonely time. Below are some websites that can help pass the time and ease the isolation.
Free high definition opera every night beginning at 7:30 PM
Free online courses from Ivy League Universities
Experience the best museums from London to Seoul in the comfort of your own home.
SimplyE app will allow you to read books on your phone or device.
We encourage you to browse YouTube for Senior Exercise sessions, including those by Silversneakers.
15 plays and musicals you can watch on stage from home, including Sweeney Todd, Newsies and others.
If you are alone and feeling isolated and would like emotional support please let us know!
Since this is a rapidly evolving situation, the SBS is continuing to monitor the situation closely. We remain committed to the safety and well being of our members. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the outbreak, we cannot now offer a definite re-opening date.
Our office will remain closed at least until Friday, March 27, and we will continue to provide updates in the days and weeks ahead.
Update from the SBS, Monday, March 16, 2020
Dear Members & Clients,
You are at the center of everything we do at the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York.
Your health and wellbeing are of utmost concern to us and you are our highest priority especially during the current COVID-19 epidemic. We all need to take this virus seriously.
As a precaution, and in keeping with current guidance from healthcare experts, we are, therefore, cancelling all remaining events (Kaffeeklatsches in NJ, Westchester and Long Island; Movies; Music & Fitness held at the SBS offices) for March and April. Importantly, this means we are also cancelling the Annual Meeting, which was scheduled for April 21st. The Board of Directors will announce a new date for the Annual Meeting as soon as the situation permits them to do so.
We are monitoring the official advice from city, state and federal health officials as well as the NJ Department of Health and the States coronavirus Task Forces.
For access to non-emergency information specifically with respect to senior citizens, please use the following phone numbers:
- New York City call 311
- Nassau County Office for the Aging - 516-227-8900
- Suffolk County Office for the Aging - 631-853-8200
- Westchester County Dept. of Senior Program and Services - 914-813-6300
- For other parts of New York State: Office of the Aging - 844-697-6321
- NJ Division of Aging Services - 877-222-3737 for access to Aging Services in your county
- For Information on preventive care visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
We hope that you and your families remain safe during these trying times.